Arnold School of Public
Health welcomes returning exercise guru Dr. Stephen Blair
Along with dedicating its new research center this fall, the Arnold
School of Public Health is marking the return of Dr. Steven Blair, a
former faculty member and internationally recognized authority on
exercise and its health benefits.
For the past 22 years, Blair has worked first as a researcher and then
as president and CEO of the Cooper Institute. Based in Dallas, the
institute is a nonprofit research and education center recognized as a
leader in exercise science.
During his tenure at Cooper, Blair did extensive research using the
Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) which examines the impact that
diet, physical activity and other lifestyle factors have on mortality.
ACLS database, the largest of its kind, is based on objective measures
of fitness collected on more than 80,000 patients at the Cooper
Institute since 1970, Blair said.
returning professor, who has joint appointments in the Department of
Exercise Science and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics,
has a copy of the database that he plans to use in his research programs
Blair says he’s delighted to return to the campus where he first came to
work in 1966 as a PE instructor, working out of a room over the gym in
While the Cooper Institute was a fine facility, Blair looks forward to
working at the new research center at the Arnold School and the support
of an array of academic talent at USC.
“I’m coming back to a place that I know very well and some of the people
like Russ Pate, who is one of my closest friends,” Blair said. Pate is
an internationally recognized exercise physiologist, recently named USC
associate vice president for health sciences.
“Then there’s a little fellow named Jaxson Woodrow Kennedy who lives up
between Laurens and Greenville. My 21-month-old grandson,” he said.
Blair says he also hopes to devote some time to public health issues
particularly in light of a newly announced effort by the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services to develop comprehensive physical activity
Secretary Mike Leavitt said last month that the guidelines will be
issued in 2008, as part of creating a “culture of wellness across
guidelines are long overdue, said Blair, and there is a great need to
have a process similar to the dietary guidelines, which are issued every
five years. The physical activity guidelines can form the foundation
for the development of a national physical activity plan, noting that
the United States is one of the few industrialized countries without
such a plan.
“From my research and a lot of others, physical inactivity is one of the
biggest public health problems we have. Inactivity and low fitness are
powerful predictors of morbidity and mortality for millions of
Americans,” he said.
exercise guidelines will be based on the best scientific findings on
physical activity, something that Blair’s research has documented
Blair said he is preparing to publish the results of a five-year
exercise study involving a group of postmenopausal, moderately
hypertensive, sedentary women who were tested at different levels of
pretty much know that exercise is good for you, but how much is really
required to have any benefit? Is it the public health consensus rate –
30 minutes of moderate intensity five days per week? Well, suppose you
do half that. Do you get any benefit? Well, nobody knew,” Blair said.
women were tested at 50, 100 and 150 percent of the consensus exercise
recommendations. The results indicated that even a little exercise goes
a long way.
Even performance at 50 percent of the recommended exercise levels
produces “significant physiologic adaptations that are healthy. So
that’s good news,” Blair said.
Blair’s return to USC adds strength to the already notable exercise
science program at the Arnold School. Blair and Pate are former
presidents of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Dr. Larry
Durstine, chairman of the Department of Exercise Science, is the current
president of ACSM.
Blair currently is executive lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology,
Health Promotion, and Recreation, University of North Texas. He also is
an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of
Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the College of Education at
the University of Houston.
is a Benjamin Meaker Fellow at the University of Bristol, England. He
is a fellow in the American College of Epidemiology, Society for
Behavioral Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine, American Heart
Association, and American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education;
and was elected to membership in the American Epidemiological Society.
Blair is a past-president of the National Coalition for Promoting
Physical Activity, and the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical
is the recipient of three honorary doctoral degrees--Doctor Honoris
Causa degree from the Free University of Brussels, Belgium; Doctor of
Health Science degree from Lander University, U.S.; and Doctor of
Science Honoris Causa, University of Bristol, UK.
has received awards from many professional associations, including a
MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health, ACSM Honor Award,
Robert Levy Lecture Award from the American Heart Association, and is
one of the few persons outside the U.S. Public Health Service to be
awarded the Surgeon General's Medallion. He has delivered lectures to
medical, scientific, and lay groups in 48 states and 30 countries.
research focuses on the associations between lifestyle and health, with
a specific emphasis on exercise, physical fitness, body composition, and
has published over 360 papers and chapters in the scientific literature,
and was the senior scientific editor for the U.S. Surgeon General's
Report on Physical Activity and Health.
also is the author, editor or coeditor of several books, including
Fitness After 50, Active Living Every Day, and Physical Activity and